It was hard not to get excited this weekend. The Olympics were on and the NBA found its way to permeate this with Steve Nash helping to light the flame. Then he wins the skills competition and participates in Sunday's All-Star game. Fine, Dwayne Wade wins MVP of that contest but Steve Nash is my vote for weekend, season and all around awesome player to watch MVP. This wasn't even my most favourite part of the weekend. So I am watching the Rookie game Friday expecting a low key mix of some up-and-comers and was completely blown away. We knew Tyreke Evans was the lay-up king and would quickly prove to be the Rookie All-Star MVP; however, it was his move during the trophy presentation that truly inspired me. He complimented fellow Rookie All-star DeJuan Blair on his skills and invited him to hold the MVP award together. No egos here, folks. Let's hope this lasts.
The trade deadline - things to watch
We could talk about the rumours and speculate who will go where but really, it all boils down to this. With 30 games left in the season, the championship contenders are trading to get that final piece to an NBA Championship victory and everyone else is looking to make the rest of the season not so painfull. I really want you to think outside the box in the next week when the trade deadline comes and goes. This is how you can properly evaluate whether a trade was good or bad.
One - Don't just look at players, look at systems. This is really key. We can all get caught up in the emotion of whether Amar'e Stoudemire would be a good fit for Lebron James and the Cavs but this may not translate well on the court. There is a reason why coaches are fired over dismantling a team entirely. We can't just look at players and how they play together, we have to consider the systems coaches present and how it affects their game. I remember playing under one coach who pushed his defensive systems over offense and my game was remarkably different under the next coach who's philosophy was to keeps things even and simple. Look at the player and their style of play and see if it fits in the team's coaching style. A better predictor of a successful trade in my opinion.
Two - Remember the game is played OFF the court and on the court. You may think your favourite player is safe and may not be traded but don't get too comfortable. It's a fun game to watch and play but at the end of the day, the NBA is a mulit-million dollar business and the players are assets to be protected. This is this cold-hearted truth. I've been a fan of the NBA since I came out of the womb (and yes, the doctor wrapped me in purple and gold) so please don't get the impression this means I'm cold hearted. Consider this: Antoine Wright knows how a trade can come out of no where and disrupt a player's life. He also understands, I think more than any other Raptor, how cruel this business can be. He's making shots and playing the strong game that brought him to Toronto from the Mavs but I am sure he is fully aware that his expiring contract is pretty attractive to Raptors Execs who want to trim the budget. So look at contracts and how much it costs to keep a player on a team and how much value a player has.
Three - Be mindful of how a mid-season trade will affect the existing chemistry of a team. This is why I am almost positive Chris Bosh is safe. I know what I just said about games being played off the court but truthfully, the Raptors have a momemtum at home that can take them into the play-offs and the fans are really rallying around the team. A Bosh trade now can really break that momemtum. This is the hardest adjustment period for a team and the traded player. Players don't like it when you take away starters or players that mean alot to the team. And on the other hand, adjusting to new offensive and defensive systems make it a challenge for the player coming onto a new team. So consider all this in the next few days.
David and the "Stern" Press Conference
So David Stern calls a press conference during the NBA All-Star weekend and I'm thinking *yawn* big deal. Oh, so Team U.S.A. will compete at the Word Championships in Turkey? Ok. And the NBA is opening an office in Africa and is also looking at India and the Middle East? Cool - peaks my interest. But this is where it gets interesting. He announces the NBA is projected to loose $400 million dollars this year and ..wait for it...they are looking for a "sustainable business model" where every NBA team can compete. Oh yeah and he'd like the deal "if possibile please" before July 1st of this year. Before the free agency trade deadline? I am with Charles Barkley on this one - totally inappropriate to discuss during "the greatest pick-up game on earth" as Kobe Bryant describes All-Star weekend. So really, David Stern has admitted to the world the NBA hasn't learned anything from 1983. This was when the league and the Players Association made an agreement that saw the first revenue sharing plan in league history. Although Stern was not the NBA Comissioner at the time, he acted behind the scenes as a major player.
This is what really bothers me. I don't understand how anyone can get up there and essentially say the organization I represent is loosing $400 million dolllars and we want a deal asap. David Stern's argument is he just wanted to start discussions early. Seriously? The current deal expires in a year and a half, after the 2010 -2011 season. He says the NBA's books are open but I am really questioning where the loss is coming from. Is it from the NBA's books or the other businesses they own? If I were a player in the NBA, I'd be asking the same question.
"When the Game was Ours" - Larry Bird, Magic Johnson with Jackie MacMullan
Loved this book. It really made me appreciate how the landscape of the game has changed over the years. It described how some players like Boston Celtic M.L.Carr put himself and his family at risk just to play NBA basketball. He arrived in Boston as a free agent in 1979, a few years after Boston public schools were integrated by forced busing. And of course, it went into detail of the rivalry between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Gotta love how a commercial can bring two players together who couldn't stand each other up to that point. I was ten (you do the math) when that "Choose Your Weapon" campaign was born back in the late 80s and I am sure I would have been all over a pair of purple and gold Converse sneakers. So if you are an employee of Converse and are reading this, I wouldn't mind a pair if you have any left over. I'm a size 9.5.